Liberation: Transforming the System for All Youth

By Brenda V. Perez Amador (Changemaker, ND4Y) and Kathy Tran (Senior Policy Analyst, CLASP)

The New Deal for Youth (ND4Y) Policy Platform advances radical and interconnected policy ideas that transform current systems and center racial, gender, and social justice. This blog is one in a four-part series that introduces the ND4Y framework: Reparations, Liberation, Decriminalization, and Abolition.

A New Deal for Youth (ND4Y) is a youth-led and youth-centered effort to advocate for the creation of new systems, policies, investments, and structures that reimagine life for young people in America. The New Deal for Youth Changemakers’ policy platform is built on a framework of four tenets: abolition, decriminalization, reparations, and liberation. ND4Y Changemakers define liberation in this way:

“Liberation: We believe in the liberation of all peoples, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, or immigration status. When the most marginalized are liberated, everyone is liberated.”

In this blog, we will share our personal experiences along with those of Changemakers of what liberation means to us, our community, and our efforts in a New Deal for Youth. We believe that liberation includes the right to self-determination, the inclusion of intersectionality, and the solidarity of all peoples. A New Deal for Youth does not just seek to reform the status quo, but we believe in actively transforming current systems to better the lives of young people.

Rommy Torrico

Liberation must include the right to self-determination. We believe young people have the right to determine the world they want to see and must be thoughtfully included in shaping public policy decisions. Youth and young adults are speaking up now more than ever about social and political issues. According to a national survey, about 83 percent of U.S. youth believe they have the power to change the country, and 79 percent expressed that the COVID-19 pandemic allowed them to see the importance of public policy in their everyday lives. Despite the high involvement of youth in advocacy movements, public policy is failing to support the livelihood and overall wellbeing of young people. Even among U.S. youth, the workforce system continues to leave behind Black and Indigenous young people who are facing the highest rates of unemployment. A New Deal for Youth’s policy platform includes liberation in its framework because youth believe that the self-determination for a more just world must include all youth at the decision-making table—and that we must uplift the policy failures harming communities that have been most marginalized.

Liberation must also center intersectionality. Kimberly Crenshaw explains that intersectionality is how oppression can be experienced in different configurations based on race, gender, class, ethnicity, etc. The understanding of intersectionality is crucial to collective liberation and the movement for justice. Youth from all over the country are coming into spaces like ND4Y and realizing there are common denominators to the issues that affect them. In Washington, D.C., we see Joella Roberts, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipient originally from Trinidad and Tobago, who is bridging the conversation between police brutality in Black communities and the need for immigration reform to protect undocumented people. Through our immigration justice demands, we seek more than just immigration reform. We hope to bridge the conversations of immigration and other justice issues to transform the current systems.

Liberation as a framework also includes standing in solidarity with other communities in times of success and struggle, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, or immigration status. The current disparities of outcomes for Black, Latinx, and Indigenous youth within the workforce, mental health, education, justice, immigration, and environmental justice systems have shown that we can’t look at liberation for just one community. In shaping A New Deal for Youth, Changemakers strive to advocate for policies and systems that support communities facing the largest barriers to economic, health, immigration, and indigenous justice.

Over the past two years, we have grounded our work with this liberation framework by ensuring that all the issues we advocate for must move together. We have imagined liberation as part of our New Deal for Youth policy platform by taking several key steps:

  • During our first year, Changemakers created a list of demands and policy solutions they would like to see happen. When Changemakers didn’t see the status quo change, they built a ND4Y podcast to share their ideas.
  • In May 2022, we hosted a Hill Briefing to launch our youth-led, youth-sponsored legislative agenda.
  • Changemakers kept the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) accountable to young people through public comment.

At a New Deal for Youth, we believe we can’t just reform policy, but we must actively transform current systems with a framework of liberation. As we move into our third year of A New Deal for Youth, we hope to continue sharing our policy platform and framework and move our work forward.